Thursday, December 9, 2010

DuhARRRam Student Day

Captain's Log

November 24th - Lviv Hall, Oshawa: the third Student Day

Up up early in the morning for the last Student Day.  174 students filled the hall today - 7 schools from DCDSB and 6 from PVNCCDSB. They were all treated to a final rocking performance by Derek Forgie.  He offered to come out and speak at any of the schools attending to support them in taking the campaign back to their peers.  You can contact Derek at

The one element of the Student Days not yet described is the Indonesian Simulesian.  Students were transported to Central Java Indonesia where CCODP provides financial support to our partner KruHa. KruHa is a network of Indonesian NGOs that support community efforts to keep community water in comunity hands. You can read about them in our campaign tabloid. We simulated a village meeting where they had to decide whether to keep ownership and control of a spring on their land or sell it to a bottled water company.  Playing the devil's advocate role and adovcating the sale of the spring were their own teachers.  Needless to say, students voted heavily in favour of keeping control of the spring.

Indonesia is the second largest bottled water market in Asia. For many people in the country, drinking bottled water is not a choice, unlike for us.  Placed before us is a development question:  should we be working with people in the Global South to develop water infrastructure systems and promote environmental stewardship of water resources ? Or should we take control of the clean water sources that exist, stick it in bottles and sell it to them for large profits?

Pirates, we need you to build those ships now more than ever.

PS. The river is now huge.

ToARRRonto Student Day

Captain's Log

November 17th - St. Bonnies Parish Hall, Toronto: the second Student Day.

Students began the morning building small bottled water pirate ships - prototypes for bigger things to come!

Derek Forgie was in fine form again today.  So were the students of TCDSB and YCDSB. The question period went well over the allotted time.

The students own knowledge was further deepened by watching  "The Story of Bottled Water" and they enjoyed our own "D&P Cartoon"

The pedometer went over well again, hitting the mark with 6.16 KM.  Should I say that if we are really going to show what it's like for women fetching water in the Global South that they should be carrying a large container full of water for half the distance?

The whole point of the pedometer excercise is to encourage students to use creative methods to share information back in their own schools.  In the afternoon students broke into mixed school groups for 3 activities: a) come up with a creative way to present a fact about bottled water b) create a cartoon to illustrate the issue c) come up with a skit that you can do in front of a vending machine that sells bottled water.  These are just three techniques they will use to educate and mobilize their school communities.

Many pirates joined up with the Water Commodification Resistance today! A great day on the high seas as the river of justice grows larger each day. We were even covered by the Toronto Observer.

DuffARRRRin Peel Student Day

Captain's Log

November 9th - Fr. Goetz S.S. Mississauga: the first Student Day.

Derek Forgie spreads the word!

With all but a few of the board's 26 high schools represented, the crowd at Fr. Michael Goetz high school was a large one.  The day kicked off with a presentation by Derek Forgie from MTV Canada. He had everyone laughing but also thinking about our consumption of bottled water. "Did anyone stop to think that evian is naive spelled backwards?" he asked.

taste test time
We watched as student volunteers failed his 'tap water taste test.'  It's pretty clear that tap water tastes just about the same as bottled water products.

Warmed up by Derek's presentation, students then learned about the July 28th UN declaration on access to clean water as a human right.  They heard that 884 million people in our world today do not enjoy that right.  If water is a god-given gift for all, this is a challenge to our very humanity.

One student, Tiffany, was ready to oblige me when I asked for a drink of water.  She was a bit surprised when I gave her the pedometer and asked her not to bring me the water until it read 6km.  This is how far women in the Global South can have to walk in order to get water for their families.  Everyone cheered when she proudly came back sometime later with the proof on the pedometer. She was awarded a Life before Profit T-shirt for her efforts.

Judging by the hearty response to my question, "Be thar any pirates in this here room?" I think we can expect a good fleet from the Dufferin Peel board.  They were happy to take a share of the pledge card booty I brought with me in my black chest. I expect they will now be getting busy building the finest ships in the land!

Many thanks goes to the school board for their support of this day.  The most special thanks though goes to the students of the SOWHAT club at Fr. Goetz.  If anyone says you did less than awesome in organizing the conference they can walk the plank!

Dear pirates of the water commodification resistance (WCR)

We at CCODP may not have a face to launch a thousand ships, but that is more or less what we are aiming to do with schools in the archdiocese of Toronto and the diocese of Peterborough.

Let me elaborate: between November 9th and November 24th our local educator's group held three student days covering five schools boards.  The Student Days, as we call them, are  particularly close to my heart.  It was at one of these days some fifteen years ago that I was introduced to Development and Peace.  As a grade 11 student I was a participant - now I get to help organize and lead them!

pledge in a bottle
Over the course of this year's student days, over 400 high school students were empowered to carry out our "Water for All! Let Justice Flow" campaign back in their schools.  Each school has been invited to collect discarded plastic water bottles and to build pirate ships out of them, an idea I wrote about in my last post.

These school ships will sail to special gathering places in and around March 10th 2011- Bottled Water Free Day.  They will carry a message in a bottle, signed pledge cards showing the commitment of students everywhere to keeping water a god-given gift for all.

So much happened at the three student days that I am sharing my pirate's log entry for each of them.

Your Truly,

Captain Luke Silver, WCR

Monday, November 15, 2010

Groundswell...the day we imagined pirate ships...

All Souls Day this year was also the D&P Educator's day.  On Nov. 1st over fifty educator's from across the archdiocese gathered at St. Bonaventure's parish hall to hear from ALCDSB trustee John Brisbois.  They came to hear how the ALCDSB became one of the only school boards in the entire country to have a board-wide policy banning bottled water.  John is a retired educator with over thirty years experience.  He is a long-time D&P member and did a stint on our National Council.

Schools are probably the hardest spaces to create bottled-water free zones.  Vending machines bring in much needed extra money for school sports teams, bands, choirs, and all manner of extra-curricular activities.  They are also an easy fundraiser.  John shared that he too had sold bottled water through the school without much thought in the past.  That changed when educator's got board approval to form a board-wide social justice committee.  That committee decided to take on the bottled water issue.  Over three years they did all kinds of work educating students about bottled water.  In this way they created a groundswell of support which eventually culminated in the board-wide policy passed January 29th 2009.  John believes the campaign was successful because it was run bottom-up instead of top-down.

Of course it wouldn't be a campaign workshop without an appearance by the D&P supersoaker, which vigilantly denies people access to clean drinking water at all our workshops.  This time Sylvia Skrepichuk did the honours, I was the victim and it was caught on film.


In break-out groups participants brainstormed how our school boards in the Archdiocese of Toronto could create a similar groundswell to that in ALCDSB and eventually go bottled water free.  These ideas were then developed further in the educator's group mtg. following the workshop (i.e. the day's planning committee).

One school when taking on this issue in the past had created a pirate ship out of discarded water bottles.  We soon hit on the idea to have each school create one of these ships.  Each school's ship will carry signed D&P pledges from the student body to the board office on Bottled Water Free Day, March 10th, 2011.  Our idea is to raise this armada and deliver a "Message in a Bottle"  - Students want to work with school board leaders to create bottled water free zones!  The first student day is November 9th for Dufferin-Peel. Ship's Ahoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting Good Mileage in Kingston

October 30th the newly active Kingston Archdiocesan Council hosted a campaign workshop at the diocesan centre in Kingston.  The council was very happy with the turnout - twenty more drops added to our river of justice. Congratulations to all who helped make it a success!

A most interesting exchange happened as Belleville participants asked those gathered what could be done about their tap water, which has a pretty bad reputation.  Many choose bottled water because of this.  Another participant from Kingston related how his city had made large investments in filtration systems to improve the quality of the tap water.  Could Belleville get their leaders to talk to folks from Kingston for ideas he wondered?  Also, KFL&A Public health has a new initiative called Tap into Kingston. The initiative aims  at promoting tap water and includes a map of local businesses, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes that let people in the community fill their reusable water bottle with great tasting tap water.

The discussion highlighted for me the importance of how the D&P pledge is worded.  The pledge stresses support for Public Water utilities before it talks about choosing tap water over bottled water.  An integral part of choosing the tap is to protect it. If you want to know about your area's tap water, the provincial government has a good website to do some research.

During the workshop we collect creative ideas about how to communicate facts about water taken from our action sheet.  One of my favourites: An Announcement could be made at mass that, due to health & safety concerns, all Holy Water in the church will be replaced by bottled water.  As a result, you must place a penny in a jar each time you bless yourself in an effort to off-set the cost.

That Saturday I travelled about 500KM. I was struck by a thought en route home as I filled up at  a road-side gas station: how much would it cost me if I was filling my tank with bottled water instead of gas? It had already been pointed out to me that bottled water is more expensive than gas.  When I got home I did some math.  My bill at that station was $30.89 for 31.045L (.995/L HST inc)  The McDonalds right by my office sells Dasani for 1.79/500ml plus tax.  By my calculations, if I had filled my gas tank up with Dasani bottled water it would have cost me $128.58.  Ouch.  

Fill the car with gas.
Fill the car with Dasani

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Have you Seen the Drinking Fountain Here?"

"Have you seen the Drinking Fountain Here?"  asks Colin - Kaitlyn Zarzour.  Colin is a Student Trustee with the Durham Catholic District School Board.  I've been invited here by Colin to speak at the monthly student senate meeting he co-chairs at the board office.  We pause my presentation on our Water Campaign right at the point I am talking about drinking fountains in schools.  When else do you get to stop a meeting and run out of the room to check out a drinking fountain? Awesome.  Within minutes I'm introduced by Colin to the Elkay EZH2O bottle filling station just outside the meeting room.  The board office installed the drinking fountain as part of their efforts to reduce the consumption of bottled water. This filling station actually counts the number of plastic bottles diverted from waste management systems through its use.

Colin and the rest of the senate are planning to make Water the broad theme of a board-wide initiative this year.  Creative ideas flow from the students as they brainstorm ways to make this campaign a reality. We at Development and Peace are ready to walk with them!  November 24th will be our annual Student Day for high schools in Durham.  Incidently, it was at this very day some fifteen odd years ago (when D&P was focused on the issue of sweat shops)  that I first became aquainted with Development and Peace as a high school student at St. Mary in Pickering.  Now Colin and the rest of the student senate are carrying the torch and burning bright.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Holding Fast for Bill C-300

Fasting is a spiritual practice that helps to attune ourselves to the Spirit.  Today I will not be eating any food to honour the 500 000 signatures of Canadians who over the last 3 years have put their names to the cause of human rights and environmental stewardship.  During our mining campaign, people spoke in churches, schools, street corners, and countless conferences and workshops, seeking to put an end to the Human Rights abuses and Environmental abuses of some Canadian Mining Companies operating in the Global South.  They met with over 120 MPs pleading for a legal mechanism to hold companies accountable. 

I fast today to honour the voice of Catholics and countless others, but also to pray.  Every hunger pang will focus my attention to a thousand stories my fieldwork on the mining campaign brought me to encounter.  Each one is a prayer for the passage of the Bill C-300.  As I write now, I think of Pedro Landa from Caritas Honduras, whom I accompanied on a speaking tour of my region.  Pedro and his wife melted their gold wedding rings, sold the gold and gave the money to the poor. Why? Because what Gold mining had done to his country meant that he could no longer see the ring as a symbol of the Sacramental marriage bond between him and his wife.

At home with my kids and Pedro Landa.
Why choose today to fast?  I fast today because on Parliament Hill this afternoon, MPs will have the 3rd reading vote on Bill C-300, the Responsible Mining bill put forward by Scarborough liberal MP John McKay.  Today the vision of solidarity with the countless people affected by companies carrying our flag can be democratically confirmed.  The people of Canada have sent a clear message, now it is time for those we have elected to hear our voice!

Yesterday I contacted key liberal MPs and asked them to sponsor my fast by voting in favour of the Bill. Today I am going to e-mail them all.  I am also asking any who have not already contacted their MP to sponsor me as well by calling your MP this morning at their constituency office on Parliament Hill.  Step 1) Find Out who your MP is. Step 2) Find out how the voted on C-300 at the 2nd Reading   Step 3) Contact your MP and ask them to vote in favour of Bill C-300 today!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'Bottled Water-Free Zone' Cake.

Saturday and I was on the road again - this time to Peterborough.  On tap for the day: a morning campaign workshop at St. Anne's with local D&P members, followed by a retreat on Caritas in Veritate.  I posted the drops from the Barrie workshop on the wall.  As you can see, the stream grew a bit more as participants added their own drops. It was a creative morning. 

This time round we chose a pregnant mother to handle the water gun.  Needless to say Amanda encountered less resistance than fair-trade Bob did in Barrie. 

To celebrate the start of the campaign, Karen Staunton baked a beautiful 'bottled water free-zone' cake.  What delicious artistry! Karen is an amazing D&P member who leads the group at St. Anne's and knows how to get things done.

Now I have done a lot of workshops but when it comes to retreats I'm a definite newbie.  Leading a retreat on Caritas in Veritate was new territory for me.  However, the group warmed up to me from the moment I began singing that Hal David classic, "What the World Needs Now is Love."  This essentially is the message of Pope Benedict's encyclical.  It is so simple as to be dismissed as cliche, however the implications are deep and far reaching.  Love must be the force behind our efforts as a global human family - neither the market nor government institutions are sufficient to bring about the development we need.  What is needed is a mobilization of the heart.  According to Catholic Social Teaching, to develop is not just to do more, know more and have more.  To develop is to be more. We believe in integral human development, the development of the whole person and every person (no short order).  But what is it to 'be more'? This is where the Truth comes in.  Rather than the truth being a set of doctrines or rules, truth is found when we open ourselves to listening to the other and finding the laws written by God on our human hearts.  Indeed it is here that we find the very splendour and glory of God.  For us as Catholics, Love in Truth is a powerful force that opens us to what it is to be more.  Throughout the afternoon we explored those depths as a group.

After the retreat we celebrated mass together.  How lovely it was to have Fr. Bill ask us to stand and be acknowledged by everyone gathered for mass that evening at St. Anne's.  It was as precious an applause as I have ever received. After dinner we ate cake -  'bottled water-free zone' cake.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cohesion in Barrie

On Saturday I was on the road up to St. Mary's in Barrie early in the morning.  By 11:00am we had 18 people posting blue water drops on the wall.  Each drop contained words sharing the experience of water in our faith.  This was part of a formation workshop facilitated by myself and our national council member Sylvia Skrepichuk on our new water campaign.  Sticking stuff on walls is a favourite workshop tactic, especially in popular education.  Somehow a workshop feels more productive if something is stuck on the wall - why is that? At the very least I would say it makes things pretty.

This time we did something a bit different though. The drops were not placed on the wall wily nily.  You can see in the picture that I've posted how they fit together.  We did this to illustrate the phenomenon of cohesion.  Our campaign Tabloid uses the cohesive properties of water to describe the work of KruHa, an indonesian organization supported by Development and Peace, "each drop of water becomes stronger when united with other drops of water.  Indonesian water activists work much the same way.  Development and Peace partner KruHa (the People's Coalition for the Right to Water) is a coalition of more than 30 Indonesian organizations, each working to ensure water access for all Indonesians, especially the marginalized."

One participant, 'fair-trade Bob' (a leader in the local fair trade movement), happens to be an oceanographer by training.  Speaking of cohesion led him to comment on the many other amazing properties of the H20 molecule. Indeed, this gift given by God for life is truly unique.

Water also adopts amazing properties when placed in a water gun. Bob found this out when playing the role of a bottled water company denying peasant farmers access to a local spring.  The activity was part of a simluation to share the experiences of the Sukabumi community in Indonesia described in our Tabloid.

The morning formation was the third of four being offered in the Archdiocese of Toronto. We do one for each of the North, Central, Western and Eastern regions of the Archdiocese.  The west is the last, November 27th at St. Dominic's in Mississauga (625 Atwater) 9:00-1:00pm. Do come!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Change Brewing in the Church Basement

Mustard Seeds tend to germinate very well in Church Basements.  As an animator, the Church basement or Church hall is my element.  I love everything about them, even the occasional smell.

Last Friday I was in a church basement that actually smelled amazing.  The RYVM at St. Patrick's Parish on McCaul St. in Toronto hosted "Brewing For Change", a social justice coffeehouse.  This photo is a shot of the doorway down.  The place was filled with the aroma of espresso and cheesecake provided by Fr. Santo Arrigo and his team (many thanks for your wonderful ministry!).  My opening gambit, "Would you ever take a big bite out of a raw onion?" caught people's attention (now you are wondering too right?) and the presentation on D&P was well received, including our water campaign cartoon.  I had several good conversations with interested folks and gave a prayer to the Holy Spirit afterward as a few more seeds were sown.

Of course, my presentation paled in comparison with the performances of my son, Jacob 7, and daughter Amy 5, who came with me.  They whistled and hummed renditions of K'naan's "when I get older" to the delight of those gathered.  It was a bit of a late night for them although I told myself, "it's Friday." Plus, they both walked away with treasures from the Good Shepherd Sisters Sharing Fair, who had a table at the event.  Jacob is now sporting his tri-colour rosary to school each day.

Why are Church Basements so precious? Because they are spaces the Church has seen fit to create where we can strengthen the bonds we share in the Eucharist and give others a glimpse into the life of the beloved community.  There are no glitzy marketing schemes here.  Everything instead is simple: simple kitchens to feed people, simple tables to gather around and simple words and music to rejoice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

JPII, I'm proud of you!

John Paul II in Scarborough is a long-time supporter of D&P. They faithfully carry out our campaigns every year and help with the planning of our annual student days. Last Tuesday I was with them as they hosted their local MP John McKay. Students sent him postcards in support of the D&P campaign to establish a legal mechanism to hold Mining Companies accountable for Human rights and Environmental abuses. In response, the Hon. Mr. McKay came to share with them the story of Bill C-300, which is his responsible mining bill. D&P has thrown its nationwide support behind this piece of legislation that would deny abusive companies access to the tax-payers wallet. The event was covered by the Scarborough Mirror. Bill C-300 goes to its 3rd reading vote on October 27th. If you haven't yet, look up your MP and give them a call - we need all the votes we can get!

Now I often meet with silence after issuing questions following my presentations (I'm sorry to admit) The students of JPII though still had their hands raised after asking Mr. McKay about 20 questions. It is really wonderful to see students and teachers of a school community so engaged. I left feeling inspired to re-double my own animation work to build support for Bill C-300. JPII I'm proud of you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mustard Seed Movement

The parable of the Mustard Seed is a favourite of those who long for social change. We like the idea that our small seed will grow into something big and great. It was only in university that I reflected on the fact that I had never actually seen a really big "mustard tree" before. In a New Testament course I took, I was exposed to a much more exciting interpretation of the parable. We were shown a picture of a mustard plant - it's a shrub. Mustard, it turns out, was seen by the farmers in Jesus' time as a wild and uncontrollable weed. It spread quickly once taken root and was very hard to get rid of. Thus, the growth that I had always imagined to be vertical turned out to be horizontal. I think Jesus would have understood our idea of grass-roots movements very well, he just would have called it a mustard seed movement. Development and Peace is very much a mustard seed movement. By organizing itself in small groups found in church basements, school chapels and classrooms, the movement grows. It is always alive and beating with the hope of a better world. It cannot be stomped out or cut down in one fell swoop like a large tree because hey, do you know how many church basements there are in Canada!?! As it grows so to does the involvement of our church in building the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that Jesus tells us is like a mustard seed. And so, welcome to Mustard Seed Musings where you will hear tales and reflections on this little tiny Mustard Seed called Development and Peace.